Risk of railway union battle

A BITTER and costly demarcation battle between the Australian Workers Union and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union could be in store for the successful tenderer for the $1.4 billion Perth to Mandurah rail project.

Contenders are the Clough, McConnell Dowell, Obayashi and Leighton Kumagai Gumi consortiums.

Both the AWU and the CFMEU have coverage over construction workers, however the AWU covers civil construction while the CFMEU covers commercial construction.

Both unions fought for coverage over the Graham Farmer Freeway project, resulting in delays that hampered the first six months of construction.

AWU secretary Tim Daly said while rail work had traditionally been his union’s preserve, he was not sure what would happen as work got closer to the CBD.

“The CFMEU has a stranglehold on the CBD,” he said. “My view is the sensible way for us, the public and the Government is for this job to be finished on time. It means cooperation between the unions.”

However, the CFMEU says its members will be involved with the project and that the AWU will be excluded from the job.

CFMEU assistant secretary Joe McDonald said all of the “real” unions would have members on the project.

“We’re talking about the real unions – the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union and the CFMEU,” he said.

That claim has been strengthened by a deal between the CFMEU and the AMWU, struck as a result of disputes over Woodside’s LNG Train 4 project.

The CFMEU has agreed to cut the AMWU in on coverage for its projects, and vice versa.

AMWU president Colin Saunders said the agreement meant the union could get coverage in the CBD again – something it has not had for many years.

New Metrorail director city project Richard Mann said industrial relations was the responsibility of the consortium that won the contract and that the Western Australian Government had made no allowances for it.

However, he admitted the Government was aware of the potential industrial relations problems that could be faced.

“We have placed some importance on industrial relations management in the selection process. Indeed, we even placed importance on it at the expression of interest stage,” Mr Mann said.

“We have to be sure they have sound industrial relations management principles in place.

“We know that is essential in the CBD.

“We don’t want a repeat of the Woodside building.”

As part of the detailed submissions, due on September 18, both consortiums have been asked to file detailed industrial relations management plans.

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